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Real eBooks: Are We Still in the Stone Age?

27 January 2012

From James Moushon via Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer:

So when will we start to see REAL ebooks appear on the market? You know the ebooks that take advantage of their digital environment. Ebooks that have been rendered to improve the reader’s ebook experience. As the number of ebook devices explodes into the book reader’s world, the readers are going to expect more. This statement is especially true with the younger generation whose world seems to center around instant access.

I just completed a study of twenty newly released ebooks just to see how far the art of ebook publishing has advanced in the last year. I choose ebooks from well-known authors, from self-publishing authors, some novels, some technical books. I wanted a variety for my study. I would like to share my observations and suggestions for their improvement.

My contention is that REAL ebooks should be a different product than their paper counterparts. They should be formatted differently; sections arranged differently and in some cases they should have different covers. In short, to be a REAL ebook, they should not be just a copy of the traditional book version.

. . . .

2. Author’s References—the ebook must include links to the author’s website, email address, blogs, online profiles and social networking connections (Facebook/Twitter). You need this to get your reader/audience involved.

3. Author’s Other Books—there should be links to the buy pages for other books created by the author. Why miss this marketing opportunity.

. . . .

One of the problems that traditional books have that REAL ebooks can solve is the maintenance of links in the books. As we know we live in an ever changing world. Web and email addresses change on a daily basis, it seems. So there I am with a link to some interesting information and the link is no good. A broken link, if you will

If the REAL ebook is managed properly, you can avoid or limit this problem. You can create an online directory of links for your ebook. Then you setup a link monitoring process and a link maintenance routine and maintain a valid list of links in the directory. I call this the Goodlinks concept. Just include a link to the online directory in your ebook and you won’t lose your audience.

. . . .

I reviewed the buy page on Amazon for each book in my study. I choose one ebook in my study and downloaded the sample, comparing it to the full length version. Here’s what I found.

The ebook sample was in the same section sequence as the paper version. I know there is a traditional way to setup a book. This sample was no exception. It started with the cover followed by the title page, the table of contents, the dedication, the copyright page and a list of the writer’s other works.

So you ask what’s wrong with this. If this sample was going to help sell my ebook, it probably failed. The sample was 80 device pages long but the viewer had to page through 24 pages before they could start reading the book to make a decision.

I believe if you are going to use the sample as a sales tool, there are some slight changes you can make. I would include the cover and the title page with an abbreviated TOC up front along with the author’s other books with buy links. Also I would include upfront the author’s website and contact information. Move the copyright page, dedications and credits to the end of the ebook.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

James provides some provocative ideas, but PG wonders how all this scales.

If an author is writing like a madman/woman as Dean Wesley Smith proposes, is there going to be time to do all this extra stuff beyond getting good words on a screen?

If an author has 100 ebooks in print, what’s going to be involved in maintaining good links for each of them? Do you update Author’s Other Books in each of the prior ebooks whenever you publish a new one?

Recently, Mrs. PG decided the second sentence in one of her books was not right so, supportive husband that he is, PG changed it everywhere. It was not one of the labors of Hercules, but it took some time, including remembering to check back later for any random error messages, skipping proof orders, etc. PG would have been less supportive, or at least slower, if he had been required to change 10 books or 20.

Ebook/Ereader Technical, Ebooks

58 Comments to “Real eBooks: Are We Still in the Stone Age?”

  1. Speaking as someone who regularly includes buy links in my books, I can say that this is something I considered carefully.

    The trick I use is to use a service like bit.ly, which “bundles” links. So when you go to (as an example) http://bit.ly/buytdotl1, you get a list of links to places where you can buy my book. I can customize that original bundle link to a great extent, and then I never need to send anyone anywhere else. Because – and this is the good part – all the links WITHIN the bundle are completely malleable. I can pick and choose them as often as I like, but the core link (buytdotl1) never changes.

    In the end, there’s not going to be a lot of links changing, anyway, provided that the vendors don’t do massive updates to their sites. The link that worked to point the user to the amazon listing for my book six months ago still works today. About the only time I’d worry about it is if I changed MY site greatly, because then the links to the book there would change completely.

    But then I just go to my bundle, change the link within the bundle, and I’m good once more.

    I’ve put the bundle link on the back of my “author cards” (like business cards but with the cover of my book on them), as well as used a bit.ly link to the mobile version of my book on Amazon to add a QR code to those same cards. So all someone has to do is point their phone at the back of the card, tap “Buy with 1-click” and they’ve got the book.

    I could go on about this all day, but I’ll let your other commenters get some time in too. Thanks for the great article and link, PG!

    • Jason — great idea on the bit.ly links. I usually won’t click on those or similar because I have no idea where they might take me; I ignore them unless I know and trust the person who posted them. I’d be more willing to take a chance on such a link in a book by an author who has quite a lot to lose if their links turn out to dump their readers onto, say, a page loaded with infectious malware. And that does solve the expiring-link problem very nicely.

      Angie

      • The other benefit as a publisher or as the maintainer of the bundle is that you can see what people click on – it tracks usage, for free. So I can get a real, concrete idea as to whether they’re working or if people aren’t bothering.

    • Great tips, Jason, thanks for sharing.

    • That’s a great tip, Jason.

      I sell across different platforms, which would mean uploading a different version of the book with a different Buy link to every single platform. Plus, Amazon alone has six regional Kindle stores now with more on the way and there is no way to differentiate between them, i.e. make sure that someone who bought the book at Amazon UK get a Buy link for Amazon UK. Your approach is a solution to that problem.

  2. Another question is whether Mr. Moushon has actually polled large numbers of readers, or whether he’s just running with his own personal preferences. He can contend whatever he likes, but what I’ve seen in reader polls in a few different reader-gathering places around the net is that most readers just want e-books to be BOOKS, in pixels instead of paper, period. They don’t want bells or whistles or video or gadgets or anything else, and in fact I’ve seen readers complaining bitterly if the last whatever-percent of an e-book is taken up with advertising — blurbs, excerpts, whatever — for other books rather than with actual pages of the book they were reading.

    It might well be that there’s some significant body of readers who do want electronic bells and whistles (or maybe that body of readers will be raised on interactive children’s books and will be looking for interactive novels in twenty years) but if so they’re hiding pretty well right now.

    From what I’ve seen, a page or two at the end, advertising books by the same writer — not some other writer the publisher wants to push this month — would be welcome. Much more than that, though, and there’s going to be grouching.

    Angie

    • I think there’s a delicate balance between necessary advertising and streamlining for those readers who it annoys. This is coming from someone who’s both an author and a publisher.

      Personally, I like the excerpts of other works, if they fit with the current book. E.g. Sci-fi & sci-fi, etc. They can stretch it a bit, if for example I’m reading a sci-fi/horror book and they were to put an excerpt from another horror book at the end. It just depends.

      I wouldn’t want a whole lot of stuff at the end, but then again I did put a page of Interesting Links about zombies at the end of my book, and have received good comments on it.

      There’s always going to be people who don’t like something. Striking a balance in this case is the best option, I believe.

      • Of course you’re always going to annoy somebody. :) But there are writers or publishers who think the readers would be just delighted to find twenty or thirty or fifty pages of what’s essentially advertising in the back of an e-book. When you’re going along and you’re at seventy-some percent, and suddenly the book’s over and the rest is marketing stuff, that can be startling, and not in a good way.

        I agree that a page or two isn’t a problem, but some folks are of the More Is Always Better school. :/ It’s true that readers aren’t paying for the extra material, but that expectation that the percentage on your reader means you have that much more story to go is important regardless of how cheap the book was.

        Angie

        • Agreed on all points. That’s why I do the excerpt (since that’s still story, albeit not the original one and then a page for the author’s other stuff and contact info.

        • You’re absolutely right about expectation about amount of story left, Angie. Last month I read an ebook from a major publisher that was 244 pages long, but the story ended on page 144. The last 100 pages of the book were a reprint of pages 45-144. The publisher reproduced the (formatting error-riddled) pages to lengthen the book. Either that or they were guilty of gross incompetence. That was even more annoying than finding pages of advertising.

          • If I had to guess, it was probably just them not checking the final product carefully enough. Cut and paste is a bitch sometimes, and when you’re dealing with html files and don’t know what you’re doing, it’s even worse.

            I’d let the publisher know about the problem, if they don’t already. If I was the publisher, I’d refund your money personally and give you a couple other (properly formatted) books for free as a thank you.

  3. Good point on changing links.

    Another way to do this – so PG doesn’t have to so much work – :) – if the Author has a proper website, all links can go to that page.

    Therefore – there is one page to maintain. If that one is up to date there is no problem.

  4. PG is right — these “extras” do take away from the production of the central product. That’s one place where the publishing industry can keep a finger in the pie. And yes, that’s why they are talking about enhanced ebooks — regardless of whether the customers want them. It’s a way to stay relevant. Authors don’t have time or skills or money to do it all well, so they will once again need someone.

    But is there a screaming need on the part of consumers for it? No, not on a big level.

    And that’s the problem. It’s a fine marketing thing, but like all marketing things, it really doesn’t add that much value to the consumer.

    Worst of all, nothing proposed is new. There have been links in ebooks from the moment both ebooks and links existed. There were always excerpts and supporting material in print books. Interactivity? That’s what gaming industry is all about. Consumers who want it are already getting a much better product from the gaming industry.

    Now, those consumers may want a more literary element added to their experience, but that’s an enhancement of GAMING, not books.

    Sure, all of this will evolve, but it’s got to be in response to actual consumer demand. I expect to see most changes in incremental things — tweaks and convenience matters. Big changes, to the consumer, are a new class of product.

  5. I’d like to see more supported fonts – I’ve got an eye on a couple elegant fonts that I’d LOVE to use.

    • I have mixed emotions about fonts in ebooks.

      1: Fonts should be under the control of the reader! I control the size, I control the appearance, I get to decide what’s easy on my eyes, and I hate when this control is wrested from me!

      2: Fonts can be Really Cool Tools! And then there’s An Interior Life, which uses 3 fonts with some absolutely cool subtle effects (including bleed-through of one font used interspersed with another), and giving a supernatural being a Gothic font for its speech, somewhat akin to Pratchett’s Death’s Smallcaps.

      I think what I’d like to see is a hybrid: more supported fonts, but also more control in the font-selection that the user does — define, say, a primary and secondary font that don’t kill the eyes. If a character speaks in Gothic, also flag it as “bold” if the reader has turned off author-styles.

      Of the two, much as I really admire how An Interior Life did that, I think “my eyes, my font selection” trumps authorial artsiness.

      • eeeeeh… But sometimes it just doesn’t. I’ll admit that usually the cases where this occurs are either postmodern books or funky poetry, but there are times where part of the impact is from how the piece was laid out.

        See, when you were reading physical books you didn’t have any control at all and you just had to live with it. (Unless there was a large print version. but even still your choice was limited.) You didn’t complain about it because there was no choice and you understood that.

        Just because technology offers the possibility does NOT mean it should be taken advantage of. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t either.

        I look at a lot of font choices people make and I cringe in horror at the thought of them being turned loose on a poor unsuspecting book. Because they’re absolutely unreadable and I know some fool author is going to decide that their aliens should talk in wingdings, or their vampire should talk in blackletter because they want to seem gothic.

        On the other hand, a book like House of Leaves would be utterly destroyed by taking away the author’s typesetting decisions.

        I agree that a hybrid route using style sheets is best, but a good author (or one who talks to a good typographer) is going to choose a font that’s readable and suited to the audience and material. If the font’s too small for you to read, that’s one thing, but if you’re constantly ignoring the selections that were chosen for a book then you could be missing a lot of nuance.

        • If the book is that dependent on font and typesetting… I think it might be better to make it PDF-only. (As, indeed, most tabletop RPG companies do. Tables + Epub = no no no no no.) Or at least put a warning in, until the hybrid route comes into play.

          Otherwise, I’m gonna put in my overrides — and authors should probably expect this and rarely try to get clever with the fonts.

          • Absolutely. PDF, or device dependent if you have a visual arts component.

            However, if it’s a case of a different font representing a different voice or something like that… that’s just plain distracting. And a cascading style sheet of some sort (serif vs. sanserif — both generic) are fine. Actual images for times when the font is meant to be an image.

            But honestly, there are no cases where forcing visual design choices on a text isn’t a major negative, and I’ve only seen very rare cases (all in poetry) where it has added enough to make it a net gain.

            There are ways to deal with all of those issues which don’t require micromanaging the reader.

      • A light touch is always a good one.

    • If you can’t print them out on a piece of paper at 8pts and read them comfortably, I don’t care how pretty they are, don’t use them as body text. Most script fonts these days are made for display text, book titles, chapter headings, billboards. That sort of thing. Be nice to the poor reader. There’s a reason “boring old serif fonts” get used for body text.

    • When I think about fonts in e-books, I think of visually impaired readers. If the only way you can read by book is to use an 18-point sans-serif font with no italics, then that is more important my notions of elegance.

    • When I think about fonts in e-books, I think of visually impaired readers. If the only way you can read by book is to use an 18-point sans-serif font with no italics, then that is more important than my notions of elegance.

  6. I have read eBooks from several sources. Some with almost no effort put into the formatting, and others with with a lot of features from what he calls “Real eBooks”. I liked the books with chapter breaks and a table of contents.

    I also see the point to moving most of the ancillary pages to follow the body of the book. At the least the beginning should have a cover, title page, copyright page, other books in the series, and a link to the authors website. The title and copyright pages could be the same, as well as the series list and authors website.

    As to the links issue, if an author intends to make a career out of their writing, then like all businesses in our modern time they need to have a website of their own, that they own, a www.(your domain).com. Each book can then have a links page that would be stable and straight forward to maintain.

    I read a lot of SF and F, witch usually have appendices, glossaries, and character lists that usually go at the end, and foot note links may be a way to integrate them into the story. I also think it may be a way to reduce the need for info-dumps of back ground information in the middle of the story.

    Overall I think most eBooks need some of what is described in the article, but maybe not all.

    B. S.

  7. 1) this guy’s…um, nevermind

    2) this from KDP contract “You may not include in any Digital Book any advertisements or other content that is primarily intended to advertise or promote products or services.” I always felt that meant Amazon could come back to me and say “a product is whatever we say it is, that includes your other books”. If they can threaten unpublishing my book because of a “c” then they can do anything.

    Real ebooks. (expletive pre-deleted)

    • Well, Amazon certainly hasn’t pulled Joe Konrath’s book: DRACULAS.

      I just read it. That is, I tried to read it. Half the eBook is filled with excerpts from other books and links. At 70% of this eBook begins some kind of internet chat thing that goes on for pages and pages!

      It’s completely stupid and not like a novel at all, but Amazon still sells it.

      Of course they do. Konrath is like their number 1 indie dude. I do like his Newbie blog, but if all his eBooks are like this one then no thank you.

  8. I’ve been formatting one of my first novels, and blogging about it, and got some nice feedback about how I’d made my Chapter headings jump back to the ToC, and the ToC going to each chapter, etc. So very simple stuff, that makes it easier to navigate around in the book for people without a Bells-And-Whistles-Tablet-App, seems to be useful, ebook-wise.

    I do admit, I have a temptation to make a single “Director’s Cut” book out of this duology, and have the thing “as it stands” but with [jump to extra chapter] **excised chapter** [jump back] links… So you can read it “as-is,” or you can read the extra stuff that I don’t think sucks, but which might slow down the read a bit more.

    • I’ve always liked the idea of a “Director’s Cut” for books, but in the end what I leave out really doesn’t add much to the book, for the most part.

      That said, there’s another way to go about it, and I’m trying that with my current trilogy. I look at the books as movies, and I’m writing (and selling) short stories that are to the books what “deleted scenes” are to movies. When the trilogy is done, and so are the shorts, I’ll compile them all into a fourth book (which I’ll also sell), for those who want to get just a bit of extra background or detail, or to find out what happened to a character, etc.

      • In my case, I was writing in something akin to “web-serial” fashion for a small filter-group, and… it got big. I have hacked over 100K off the thing. A fair amount of that was legitimately hacked, and should stay gone! But there are some chapters that went on the chopping block mostly because they weren’t quite laser-focused. They wouldn’t stand alone, but Conversation X that got glossed over? Or Event Y that had key point folded in somewhere else?

        Maybe it’s more like a Backstage Cut, for the people who want to see a little of the sausage-making process. Or a Vacationer’s Cut, for people who want to spend more time in a more leisurely book, with a bit more sight-seeing.

        The ability to jump from the tighter version or the slower one… Well, that would be more of what I’d consider interesting in an ebook.

        (And, in case anyone is worried… the next book in that setting was much less wordy. Huzzah for a learning experience!)

  9. Things I could care less about seeing added to ebooks: links out of the book to websites/social networks; excerpts of other books (especially of books I can’t buy yet); video, audio, or other interactive content.

    Things I do/would like having in an ebook: Linked Tables of Content; easy links to glossaries and other supporting materials; a “who is this character, and where were they introduced” feature (Amazon’s X-ray does this, for books that have it); something that lets me know where in the actual story itself I am, not including all the end notes, bibliographies, appendices, etc.

    I’d rather ebook designers work on improving my experience within the book than worry about improving my experience outside the book.

  10. Let’s get the eBook down, first, before we start screwing around with things that are NOT book.

    Come back to me when an eBook, frex, doesn’t have those annoying extra spaces between paragraphs and is at the very least left justified with a first-line indent. It’s a BOOK, guys, not a web page.

    M

    • That’s at least half your e-reader device or app, though. Stanza, for instance, allows the user to set the spacing between paragraphs and the indentation, as well as whether it’s fully Justified or ragged-edge. So nothing I read on Stanza has much extra space between paragraphs, and everything has the specified indentation.

      If I wanted to read web-page formatting, though, I could — and some e-reader apps only use this style. (I should go back through all my apps again and put up a comparison. I did it on a forum a while back… Oh, there it is! Bah, I don’t have that customization listed, except for the ebooks.com reader, which does neither spacing nor indentation, for paragraph marking. FormatFail!)

      • I’ll take your word for it. For the nonce, I’m wrapped up in Kindle and only Kindle. Time to expand to other horizons once that one is conquered.

        However, it is possible — and, I urge, desirable — to design an eBook for Kindle so that it reads the same as a print book with the single exception being allowing reflow of text for screen rotation or larger or smaller text.

        It should be so.

        M

        • Don’t just take my word for it — grab one of my freebies from Smashwords (the .mobi files can be sideloaded onto a Kindle, I believe?) and see if paragraphs are indented or space-between. (You don’t have to read it; I just know for sure that I formatted them as Indented, so they’re handy to point to.) It’s also possible there’s something in your Kindle settings that might affect what you see, so you could get rid of the extra spacing if you find the right menu selection to tweedle.

        • Mark, surely not every Kindle book you read has that formatting? If so, it might be a device-setting issue rather than a formatting issue. I know my Kindle self-pubbed books are formatted and read like the printed page, with proper paragraph indents and no wacky spacing. :)

  11. OMG there is no way in hell I would have time to do this links thing. One link in each book to my website is fine. FFS. Don’t even need that really. Readers flippin know how to search for an authors name if they like one book they’ve read. Does this guy think readers are THAT inept? Derr.

    • Ha ha, that is my thought. I understand the whole “don’t lose the impulse buy by not having a link to your other products!” mentality, but the way I figure it is, if someone got to the end of my book and liked it enough to want more, they’ll go buy others the same way they bought the first one.

      As far as a reading experience goes, I want ebooks to be like books, just on a digital reader. Books that are not straightforward narrative are a different beast, but for a narrative book? Bells and whistles are only distracting and annoying. I think enhanced ebooks sound like miserable reading experiences, as do the “social reading” proposals. I am just old enough to not want to share everything online, though, so maybe the kids these days want that stuff. I figure…once they’re the bulk of my audience they can tell me, and I can make a business decision then. For now, my experiences and preferences as a consumer say it’s all unnecessary.

      To me the notion of decoupling the text of the story from the book format is different from decoupling the idea of story as text. Plain ebooks are the former; his (and other people’s) so-called “real” ebooks are the latter. I like reading books because it is a way to silence my mind by overwhelming my brain’s usual ADD chatter with someone else’s words for a few hours. Links and extras sort of defeat that purpose, because–ooh, shiny! Sorry (no I’m not), but…frak that.

      • “…I want ebooks to be like books, just on a digital reader.”

        Right on, dead on, hear here, and all that stuff. You said it right, Lily!

      • Personally, I DO take the time to add buy links to my other works at the end of my stories. (Amazon links in the Kindle versions, B&N links in the Nook version, but just my website in Smashwords, since that one goes out to wider distribution.)

        Why NOT make it easier for a reader to click through and get reading on your next title? It takes me maybe 5 minutes to make the format-specific changes. So far, my sales seem to be supporting the theory. :)

        • I don’t have any problems with an active link to the author’s website or a link to their book catalog…heck, even their publisher’s book catalog. What I take exception to is this book as gateway to slam-dunk book buyer with marketing and networking opportunities for said author/publisher. The quickest way to get me to avoid a publisher or author is to constantly hit me with marketing campaigns, electronic-driven or snail mail junk mail driven. Either way, that proliferater of junk/ads/spam is permanently on my black list hence forth. If eBooks start coming out with all this interactive crap in them, I guarantee I’ll not be buying them.

  12. Wow. Every time this man typed the word “REAL” I wanted to punch him… or break his fingers. He reminds me of a zealot, overcome by the new and hurries to reject all of the old because it is old.

    When I started reading this I was terrified he was going to be screaming for removal of old text formatting, additions of animations where the words fly off the page at him and his flying car while he’s at it. I was relieved to discover that all he’s really saying is something anyone in web design fifteen years ago would recognize: “take advantage of hypertext, dummies!”

    About fifteen years ago people were going the same thing with webpages. His “REAL” ebook is a hypertext document with internal and external links. Revolutionary… it is not. It just tells me that a lot of publishers are lazy and not taking advantage of the format.

    I don’t know how much thought he’s actually put into the “Goodlinks Concept” either. A setup like that might work great for a website, but only because you must be online and actively querying the site to get there. Ebooks are offline product. Sure the devices might be online, but you can’t count on that. Books don’t have permissions to go to a server and update themselves.

    The only way you can set something like that up with the way ebooks are set up today is to give readers a hyperlink to a website… which has a list of links on it… to places where people can buy your books… gee. That sounds familiar… almost like a homepage? Who knew we’ve been calling it the wrong thing all these years?

  13. I am not in favor of a different cover for the eBook. To me, that makes the book seem suspiciously “not the same book” as the printed version…or “real” as in hard copy book. Leave the covers the same. As to adding links, if a link changes, a redirect on the website is a better option than changing links in the eBook on the fly. Nobody has time to mess around going back to an old project. I don’t, anyway.

    • I could see simplifying a print cover so that it shows up better when it’s a postage-stamp sized graphic on Amazon.

      • I agree, when it comes to some of those very detailed covers. However, most are designed to look good at postage stamp size, aren’t they, these days? I just get jolted when I’m looking at the hardcover or paperback, then switch to the kindle version and find the cover different–completely different. I have to really look close to make sure it is in fact the same book. For me, it’s disturbing.

  14. Proper hyphenation rules are still a problem with a lot of ebooks, especially when fonts are changed, enlarged, or shrunken. This is a great feature (I too would like more choices in fonts), but the rules governing them need to be worked out to a much finer degree than they are now.

  15. I think front- and back-matter are crucial.

    I agree that the bare minimum should be at the front. Often, for me, this is just a combined title and copyright page, with all the other stuff that’s usually there – dedication, contents, about the author etc. – moved to the back. Although, with my last release, a historical, I allowed a map and a quote up front, as I felt they were crucial for setting the tone.

    The first thing readers see in my back matter is a sign-up link for my “new release mailing list”, then blurbs for all my existing titles (with juicy review quotes and clickable purchase links), then all my social media links (blog, twitter, email address), then a request to review my books (you wouldn’t believe the exponential increase in reviews since I asked for them – I would bet I have one of the highest review to sales ratios out there), then an excerpt of whatever I’m plugging hardest at the moment.

    Yes, it was tiresome updating all that on three existing titles when I released my fourth, but well worth the time involved. If I had 30 titles out? Maybe I wouldn’t do it each time, but I could see myself updating the back-matter at least once a year (probably at least twice a year).

    But the two most important things, for me, are the clickable sign-up link for my mailing list and the request for reviews. Most authors don’t do either, and I can’t for the life of me understand why.

    As for DVD-like extras, I polled readers before my last release. It was a historical, and I wanted to see what kinds of extras people would be interested in: interviews, “the making of” articles, deleted scenes, alternative endings, maps, extra character or historical background, etc. etc.

    The only thing people were interested in was a map. They didn’t care about the rest. So that’s what I did.

    I’m 100% skeptical about enhanced e-books. That is, for adult fiction. I can see them working (in some cases) for non-fiction and kids’ books. But for adult fiction? No chance.

    People want to immerse themselves in a novel, not be dragged out of the story by superfluous bells-and-whistles which will only detract from the experience. Have you ever seen people freaking out over the MC being depicted on the cover? People are fiercely protective of their own mental imagery. Most readers hate overly descriptive writers because they leave nothing for the reader to construct in their own mental pictures. “Reading” an enhanced e-book would be like reading the book after seeing the movie – every single time.

    What are these people proposing on doing with enhanced e-books? Adding music? Video? Maybe interactivity or gaming elements?

    Well done, you just invented the X-Box!

    • P.S. I think the reason why large publishers are desperately pushing books-as-apps and enhanced e-books (and whatever some overpaid consultant will come up with tomorrow), are because they want to bring back the barriers-to-entry in publishing. Digital self-publishing is cheap and easy. Anyone can do it. We don’t need publishers (and in most cases, don’t want them either). But if it cost $50k to bring a book out? You can bet that querying would start again tomorrow.

    • But the two most important things, for me, are the clickable sign-up link for my mailing list and the request for reviews. Most authors don’t do either, and I can’t for the life of me understand why.”

      Because we’re not as brilliant as you, David? :) I’m stealing these ideas – thanks.

      • Steal away. The mailing list is nice, it just ticks over with a few new sign-ups a week – but that all adds up, and I can see the increasing power of the list with each new release.

        When you ask for the reviews, mention how important they are to you. I think I say something like “If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a review where you purchased it, even if it’s just a line or two, it would make all the difference and be very much appreciated.”

        That simple line *dramatically* increased my reviews. It’s amazing what you can get if you ask for it.

        Heh. Next time I might ask for a dollar (remember that guy?).

  16. As an author I like to put links to my author page in my books – yes I know that’s marketing, but it helps my readers find my other books.
    As a reader of fiction, I just want to read the book and buy others. Having links all over the place feels spammy and distracting – particularly if it’s hard to get back to the book from the link.

    As a reader of non-fiction, go for it. I think linking me to a tool or a graphic outside the book is a great way to accommodate the different readers and page flows.

  17. This is a REAL good conversation about ebooks and their future. I thought I would join in.

    @Jason Kristopher – I like the idea about the use of a service like bit.ly.

    @Angie – I have not polled a large number of readers. My comments are from observation only. I continually see people Googling on their cell to find out information. Eventually the tablet will be the device of choice and that generation will demand more than a copy of the paper book.

    I believe there are a couple of things going on here.
    Are we talking about novels? If so I agree with Angie. I think links should be kept to a bare minimum so they don’t interfere with the read.

    I do think non-fiction books are a different story. If the author has a URL included in their content, then that should have a live link.

    @Keith West – Chapters replicated in an ebook should never happen. That tells me that the publisher just wanted to get the product out the door. Any kind of editor should have caught that. Self-publishers should always check their work on an ereader or at the minimum in the ereader’s software for PC/MAC.

    @Camille – Great comment. In the end I feel this is up to the author what he wants to present to the reader. I do believe that tablets will change our thinking on this.

    @Barbara Morgenroth – I don’t know why the blog offended you. I find little difference between having a section in the front of a book that lists the author’s other works vs. a list of written URL to their books and website vs. a hyperlink to the Amazon/distributors buy page.

    I would think that Amazon would like that, not discourage it. Maybe I am wrong but I think Amazon ‘no advertising’ refers to other product and services outside the scope of the ebook. @Cora – I do agree there is a problem with different platforms, different distributor formats and different country’s sales markets in addressing this issue.

    @ Jean Frese – I am glad you finally got to the REAL point, “take advantage of hypertext, dummies!” The Goodlinks concept would be for ebooks that have excessive web and email addresses. Checkout the comment on this thread from Jason Kristopher. That sounds like another solution.

    Have you looked at one of Dan Poynter ebooks on publishing lately. He includes hundreds of live links.

    The concept of Goodlinks has been practiced by several major publisher for at least eight years. They list in their book catalogue a website that a reader can access which has the current URL’s for that book. That is not a service for all books but for selected ones.

    We are in a much better position with ebooks to help with this problem rather than a paper book where the addresses are cast in stone forever.

    @ D. L. Keur – I totally agree on the cover not being different. A good design person can make the cover work in both environments.

    I want to thank Passive Guy for reprinting the blog. My blog was written from the self-publishing author’s point of view. I think a good, healthy discussion is good for the ebook industry.

    NOTE: Anytime I get an opportunity to market my ebooks, I will do it.

    • James — yes, I’m assuming novels. I agree that a nonfiction book is different, and can benefit from more bells-and-whistles type features. Many nonfiction books already have illustrations and tables and maps and sidebars and glossaries and indices and appendices and such; making some or all of those things digitally functional wouldn’t be hugely different, and would increase usability.

      Most of the writers I hang out with are into fiction, though, and that’s my assumed default. I should’ve specified. [nod]

      Angie

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